A Democrat operative and ex-president of the Atlantic City council has been arrested on charges of allegedly orchestrating a mail-in ballot fraud scheme in the New Jersey city.
Craig Callaway, the accused individual, was employed by the Jeff Van Drew reelection campaign at the time. Van Drew, a former Democrat who switched to the Republican Party in 2020, denied any involvement or knowledge of the operation.
As reported by the New Jersey Monitor:
U.S. Attorneys accused Callaway and other unnamed subordinates of paying Atlantic City residents between $30 and $50 to act as authorized messengers and request mail-in ballots for voters whom they had never met. Prosecutors allege that those ballots were later cast without the actual voters’ knowledge.
The charges appear to stem from work Callaway did for Rep. Jeff Van Drew’s 2022 reelection campaign. There’s no indication Van Drew (R-02) knew about the alleged scheme.
According to reports, Rep. Van Drew paid Callaway’s consulting firm $65,500 for “strategic consulting.” Nearly one-third of that amount, totaling $25,000, was paid in October, shortly before the 2022 election. Van Drew had previously paid Callaway’s firm $110,000 during his 2020 reelection campaign.
Callaway could potentially face up to five years behind bars and a $250,000 fine if found guilty of the charge of “procuring, casting, and tabulating fraudulent ballots.” However, this isn’t the inaugural instance of the former Atlantic City council president facing criminal charges. He has previously been convicted twice on charges related to corruption.
According to the New York Times and reported by the New Jersey Monitor:
The charges are not the first Callaway has faced. In 2006, he admitted accepting $36,000 in bribes from a contractor he helped to obtain city contracts. In 2008, he admitted guilt in a separate blackmail scheme targeting an Atlantic City councilman while serving the sentence of his bribery conviction.
In 2017, Assemblyman Don Guardian, then the city’s mayor, accused Callaway of a similar ballot harvesting scheme to boost Frank Gilliam, who won the election but resigned in late 2019 after pleading guilty to wire fraud over the theft of $86,000 from a youth basketball team he ran.
“It’s no secret that candidates from both parties have hired Callaway in the past to help them win elections. Those who hired him cannot plead ignorance now. Everyone in Atlantic County knows exactly what Callaway’s operation is and the blatant illegality of it all,” said Atlantic County Democratic Chairman Michael Suleiman.
Rep. Van Drew, who secured victory in New Jersey’s 2nd District by 19 percentage points in 2022, denied any knowledge of the scheme. He pointed to an agreement he had signed with Callaway’s organization to prevent this type of activity.
According to The Press of Atlantic City, Callaway is “known as an expert at getting out the mail-in-ballot vote.”
In 2018, New Jersey passed an expansion of their “motor voter” law, enabling automatic registration of individuals obtaining a driver’s license. This expansion allowed state agencies, such as the Office of Disability Services, the Parole Board (post-sentence completion), and the Division of Medical Assistance and Health Services, to register voters as well.
Automatic voter registration laws passed in at least 11 states and Washington DC, create an almost unlimited source of voters for bad actors to manipulate in the way Callaway is alleged to have.
Especially when bad actors obtain access to voter roll updates in real-time under the guise of stopping Get Out The Vote messaging once a voter casts a ballot.
During the 2020 election, the Michigan Center for Election Law and Administration (MCELA), a non-profit organization established by Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, received $12.04 million in “Zuckerbucks” from David Becker’s CEIR, gained exactly this type of access.
The President of the MCELA, Jen McKernan, told Michigan radio host Tracy Samilton, “Once you vote, all those groups urging you to get to the polls will be informed by elections officials that you’ve done it, and the messages will cease.”
Having this immediate access to updates would enable bad actors to discern not only who voted but, more crucially, who did not cast their vote.
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